The Delhi High Court on Tuesday expressed its displeasure towards an affidavit filed by the Centre opposing the demand to live stream proceedings of the case related to the legalisation of same-sex marriages in India, Live Law reported.
In the affidavit, the government had claimed that the petitioner was making the demand with the sole intention to create a “hallucination of public interest” in the case and to make the matter more sensational.
“The purpose of the applicant appears to be malafide as he is trying to get unnecessary publicity and to invite unwanted public attention,” the Ministry of Law and Justice said in the affidavit, according to The Indian Express. “Every matter that comes before the court is important and for every matter, live streaming may not be feasible and possible.”
Senior Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, representing the petitioners, submitted that the government may oppose the demand to live stream proceedings, but the language used in the affidavit was derogatory, Live Law reported.
“I am troubled that the government of India should use words like sympathy, hallucination, you are sensationalising,” Kaul told the court, according to The Indian Express. “You may agree or disagree on live streaming but please don’t trivialise and demean the people who have struggled for years till the constitution bench of the apex court recognised their rights.”
A division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla refused to accept the affidavit and asked the government to file a better response.
“Have you read the affidavit?” the bench asked the government’s counsel. “We advise you not to have it on record and have a relook. This is not correct. Your affidavit should not come from the ministry and you file it without reading. As a counsel, it is your responsibility to read it and say that there is something objectionable.”
The judges added: “You [counsel] are not obliged to follow it. You should be able to advise your client [Centre] accordingly. Don’t do a mindless exercise on this.”
The counsel then assured the bench that a “better” response would be filed on the next day of the hearing.
The court will next hear the matter on August 20.
The Delhi High Court is hearing at least eight petitions on the legalisation of same-sex marriages under various Acts and the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
The petitions have been filed by individuals Abhijit Iyer Mitra, Vaibhav Jain, Kavita Arora, an Overseas Citizen of India card holder Joydeep Sengupta and his partner Russell Blaine Stephens.
They seek recognition of same-sex marriage under various laws such as the Hindu Marriage Act, the Special Marriages Act and the Foreign Marriage Act.
In his plea, Mitra submitted that the language used in the Hindu Marriage Act is gender-neutral and it did not explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage.
Arora has sought directions to the marriage officer of South East Delhi to solemnise her marriage under the Special Marriage Act. She has argued that the freedom to choose one’s partner guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution extended to same-sex marriage too.
Sengupta and Stephens contended that the Citizenship Act does not distinguish between heterosexual or same-sex persons married to an Overseas Citizen of India.
The Centre has consistently opposed the pleas in the Delhi High Court. During the previous hearings of the petitions, the government argued that same-sex marriage was not part of “Indian culture or law” and that such relationships could not be compared to an “Indian family unit”.